Teacher Tuesday: WSCC’s Mike Nagle, living and teaching history.

May 19, 2020

Teacher Tuesday: WSCC’s Mike Nagle, living and teaching history.

Teacher Tuesday is a presentation of Metalworks, a small, family-run company with facilities located in Ludington and Manistee, manufacturing metal office filing systems. Be sure to show your support by liking the Metalworks Facebook page here.

By Kate Krieger, MCP Staff Writer.

VICTORY TOWNSHIP  – Starting out college as a business major, West Shore Community College professor, Mike Nagle decided early in his college years that business and business math weren’t really the right direction for him. With a love for working with people and a love for history, Nagle changed his mind and set out for a history degree and never looked back.

“I started out in college as a business major,” he said. “I did not do so well in those courses, especially business math. I always enjoyed history and working with people. I made the decision to become a teacher while on the bunk beds in the bedroom I once shared with my older brother at my mom’s house. This was in the summer between my freshman and sophomore year of college. I’ve always had a deep interest in history, so I have no doubt this was the right decision.”

Born and raised in Washington state, Nagle graduated from Blanchet High School in Seattle in 1986. He then attended Western Washington University and graduated with a bachelor of art degree in 1990, majoring in education with history and social studies as his teaching fields. He then graduated from WWU again in 1993 with a master of arts degree, majoring in history. Teaching for over 25 years, Nagle has spent the majority of his career at WSCC.

“I taught in public schools for a little less than one year, if you want to count my student teaching and substitute teaching,” he said. “I primarily substituted at the middle school and high school levels. After that, I received a teacher assistant position at Western Washington University that covered my tuition and also provided a stipend that was enough to live on. While there, I assisted professors teaching in the history department. Then, I taught as an adjunct faculty member for three and a half years at the Whatcom Community College in the town where I lived (Bellingham, Wash.) and Western Washington University. At the time, I was applying all over the country in hopes of obtaining a full-time position at a community college. I started at West Shore Community College in January 1997 and have taught there ever since. I just completed year 23.5.”

Nagle said he doesn’t run across a lot of students majoring in history, but he loves to see the sparks of interest in his students, especially when they started out just taking his class because they had to.

“Students take classes I teach because they are required,” he said. “I see very few history majors. One of the greatest compliments I can receive is for a student to say they had low expectations entering the class, but they really enjoyed it and learned a lot. As a teacher, you sometimes see a ‘spark’ in students’ eyes when they finally understand something or become really interested. That is something special and is one of my favorite things about teaching.”

Because Nagle teaches a lot of entry level courses at WSCC that are required for many different majors, he also gets to teach a variety of students interested in a lot of different things.

“I teach a wide range of students,” he said. “Some are in high school while others have recently graduated. Many others are returning students with children, spouses, and/or work responsibilities. I guess if I could change anything it would be to ensure all students have the ability to focus on their studies without the financial pressures so many face. If students didn’t have to work 40 hours per week to pay their bills while also taking a full load of classes, they would be much more likely to be successful. I always feel horrible for students who work really hard, yet their time is spread so thin, it is very difficult to be successful.”

During the most recent semester at WSCC, Nagle said he has experienced a lot of new things due to the coronavirus and he has had to rethink ways to best serve all of his students.

“This had to be the most unique semester of teaching I’ve ever experienced,” he said. “I was lucky. I’ve been teaching online for several years, so when we switched to an all-online delivery, I already had many learning objects as well as assessments developed. I still had to create or recreate many, but at least I had a head start. It was a great deal of work to switch face to face classes over to online. I felt awful for the students who had enrolled in a face to face class, but they were great.

“Each semester I assign an annotated bibliography as a research assignment in most classes. In Michigan history, they have an oral history project where they interview someone. I decided to create an alternative assignment, a COVID-19 journal based upon the recommendation of a student and feedback from my dean and other faculty. Many students chose to do the journal.

“History happens every day and we are living in historic times. So, I thought it would be a good assignment to have students document what they were doing, how they were feeling, and connect their lives to events taking place at the national and/or state and local level. I think it went well. I read a lot of great stuff by students, many of whom seemed to be inspired by the project.”

Aside from working in the classroom and conducting online courses, Nagle was lucky enough to be granted two sabbaticals during his time at WSCC to do research for different projects.

“In 2015, Wayne State University Press published a book that I wrote entitled ‘Justus S. Stearns: Michigan Pine King, Kentucky Coal Baron,’” Nagle said.” “It received an award from the Kentucky Historical Society. Stearns Park is named for Justus Stearns. I have been granted two sabbaticals. The first was in about 2007 when I traveled to Europe and also published a set of interactive history lectures which were used by many advanced US History students for many years. The trip to Europe really enhanced the western civilizations courses I teach. I still use many of the photos today. My experience overseas also has helped to provide perspective for many of the lessons.

“About three years ago I received another sabbatical. I traveled to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. Again, this really enhanced the western civilizations courses I teach. I also wanted to spend time in a predominantly Muslim country and was able to do so for a short time in Morocco, where we visited a Mosque and several additional sites. While on this sabbatical, I also continued work on a biography of Eber Brock Ward. When he died in 1875, he was the richest man in Michigan. This research has really helped provide background to the Michigan History and US History courses I teach. I hope to have a draft manuscript to a publisher this fall.”

Since moving to Michigan, Nagle raised a family with his wife, Buffy and he has gained a great love for its history, its beauty and its people.

“The first day I stepped foot in Michigan was when I came for the interview in November 1996,” he said. “When my wife and I moved here, it was the first time she had ever been to Michigan. We arrived together January 1, after I had been offered the position at WSCC. It was a very harsh winter that year. My wife and I wondered what we had gotten ourselves into. We went back to pick up all our stuff on May 16 after I completed my first semester at WSCC. It snowed May 15. But we love it here and have appreciated the way we’ve been welcomed and have enjoyed raising our daughters here. I am married (for 27 years this June) and have two daughters. Maggie just completed her coursework at Eastern Michigan University and plans to student teach in the fall. She will graduate this December. Elizabeth just graduated from West Shore and will enroll at Ferris State University this fall to pursue a degree in Business. Elizabeth has her own cake business and the photo attached shows me holding some cupcakes she recently made for another WSCC graduate.”

With one of his own children going into education, Nagle has some advice for others looking to pursue an education degree.

“The field of education has changed a lot, particularly in the last ten years or so,” he said. “My advice for students would be to follow your passion. If your passion is teaching, then go for it. If it is something else, then it’s ok to follow that path. While many people graduating from high school today might change jobs several times in their careers, they may still remain in the same field of work. You don’t want to be involved with something you don’t love, you might be in that career for many years.”

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